Our Westie is almost 12 years old and suddenly got very ill last night and was breathing rapidly. He was fine and then very sick. We rushed him to the vet this morning and were told he had fluid around the heart. The vet extracted the fluid and he is being kept at the vet's office to keep him calm until Friday. He said he needs surgery or the fluid will come back. He told my husband something about making a hole in the pericardium to drain the fluid. He is not our regular vet and we are devastated by the prognosis. He recommended a crisis vet in Mt. Pleasant, SC but said there is a 75% failure rate for heart surgery on dogs his age. What does all of this mean? Is our Taz doomed? I can't stop crying thinking that there is nothing we can do.
Your best bet is evaluation by a veterinary cardiologist at a veterinary teaching hospital, referral clinic or a veterinary medical school. There are no veterinary medical schools in South Carolina. The closest is in Athens, Georgia, and Raleigh, North Carolina. I don't know if these areas are too far for you, but your vet should be able to send your dog to a referral clinic with an attending veterinary cardiologist close to you. You do not mention the cause of your dog's pericardial effusion, but hopefully there may be other options for you little guy other than surgery.
Fluid on the heart (or pericardial effusion) has many causes. in most cases it is very serious as it restricts the hearts ability to expand and take in a new compliment of blood with each beat.
the key to treatment is knowing the cause. Viral infections in people can cause this and can resolve on its own. other causes are: bacterial Infection, Inflammatory disorders, such as lupus and post myocardial infarction pericarditis, Cancer that has spread to the pericardium, even Kidney failure with excessive blood levels of urea nitrogen. Hence you have to know the cause before you can treat it. Simply surgically draining the pericardium may not be the answer.
also you need to know how MUCH fluid is present. if a tap will resolve it - and if not how long does the fluid build back up etc. after a tap, intense treatment with antibiotics and steroids may prove very helpful.
open chest surgery in a 12 year old is risky. Before you do that, seek lots of advice and certainly a 2nd opinion (or 3rd) from well respected veterinarians.
Thank you for your comments. We took Taz to the specialist in Mt. Pleasant and after doing more x-rays and ultrasounds on his heart and abdomen they found two masses. One was on his heart and intruding into the heart and the other was in his abdomen. The one in his abdomen was pushing his organs out of place and pressing on his adrenal glad. They told us that nothing could be done and that he only had a few days left. We picked him up and brought him home yesterday after the call. He passed away in my arms this morning. We are devastated.
Thank you. It was such a shock when he got sick suddenly and then he was gone. He did not show any signs of illness until that Tuesday night. Our hearts are broken. When people asked if I had children, I always replied....Yes, Three. One with skin and two furry. I am trying to be strong for Lillie our little girl Westie. She needs us more now.
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